To Ramona

Album: Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964)

Songfacts®:

  • In her book And a Voice to Sing With: A Memoir, Joan Baez says this was song was about her. According to Baez, Dylan used to call her "Ramona."

    Baez was one of the leading folk music stars of her era and was instrumental in introducing Dylan to the popular music audience, often bringing him on stage to perform with her at shows. Baez can be seen travelling through Europe with Dylan in the 1967 documentary Don't Look Back.

    The two split ways not only romantically but also philosophically around 1965. Baez never left the politically conscious folk scene, while Dylan split from it completely. Baez has said that the two of them discussed this topic openly, with Dylan once telling her that the difference between the two of them was that Baez thought politics could change the world and Dylan knew it couldn't.

    Dylan's divorce from the progressive intelligentsia is clear on "My Back Pages" on this same album, and to a lesser degree on "I Shall Be Free No. 10." In "To Ramona," if Baez is right, Dylan is explaining his decision to her. He expresses continued feelings of love ("Your cracked country lips I still wish to kiss") but makes clear that he thinks her ideas are mistaken.

    But it grieves my heart, love
    To see you tryin' to be a part of
    A world that just don't exist
    It's all just a dream, babe
    A vacuum, a scheme, babe
    That sucks you into feelin' like this


    Many have called Dylan's apparent feelings about the perpetually corrupt and unchangeable nature of the world "fatalistic."

    Whatever label is put on him or his music, the fact is that after this song Dylan took a decisive turn in his music and persona, becoming the embodiment of the artistic individualist, refusing association with any political movement or ideology.
  • In the notes for Biograph, Dylan wrote, "Well, that's pretty literal. That was just somebody I knew. I think I'd played this for the first time at the Gaslight, probably after hours."
  • This is the first folk waltz that Dylan ever recorded, and likely the first one he ever wrote.
  • In 1969, Dylan told Jann Wenner that this was one of his favorite songs.
  • Dylan recorded this in one take.

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